eSafety Commissioner worried by Twitter changes under ‘chief twit’

Joseph Brookes
Senior Reporter

Australia’s online safety regulator has joined the mounting criticism of Elon Musk and revealed she has written to the Twitter chief to express her concern about the platform’s new direction and future compliance with Australian laws.

Mr Musk dubbed himself “chief twit” during the acquisition process he led, but his Twitter bio now reads “Twitter Complaint Hotline Operator”.

He is facing backlash about his plan to allow more users to be verified if they pay a monthly US$8 fee while making large cuts to Twitter staff, including to its platform safety team and Australian staff.

eSafety Commissioner Julie Inman Grant

On Tuesday, Australia’s eSafety Commissioner, Julie Inman-Grant, also a former Twitter executive, said she was concerned about Twitter’s direction under Mr Musk.

“If the first week of the chief twit’s tenure is any indication, I think they have a bumpy ride ahead of them,” Ms Inman-Grant told a Senate Estimates hearing.

“It’s said that content moderation is not rocket science but in some ways it’s more complex and nuanced than that.”

The eSafety Commissioner said she wrote to Twitter’s new owner on Tuesday to highlight Australia’s online safety regime and seek assurances the company would comply with Australia’s takedown scheme and other government requests after reports Australian staff had not been spared from Musk’s mass layoffs.

“This is a complex operational ecosystem, so we need to know that we have people that we can interface here and who are looking after Australians’ concerns and providing those back to HQ,” Ms Inman Grant said.

“So [I am] asking for clarification that they will be recognising our laws, they will be responding expeditiously to our regulatory requests, whether they’re formal or informal, as we have in the past and clarifying what our escalation paths will be with the company so that we can remediate harm.”

Australia’s eSafety Commissioner has wider concerns about an economic downturn putting online safety roles at risk, pointing to Meta closing its responsible innovation team after one year.

“What I’ve seen time and again with online safety is it seems the safety and the ethics and the human rights teams are the teams that go first,” she told Estimates.

“When I think, obviously, the priority should be the well being and protection of users on these platforms.”

Do you know more? Contact James Riley via Email.

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